Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Day In The Scottish Borders

I am so happy to be laying in my bed right now! It has been a fantastic, but long, day!

Arcadia, the study abroad program I went through, offers a few different trips throughout the semester, and today was a trip to the Scottish Borders region. We started at the crack of dawn so we could catch the 7:15 train to Edinburgh. Then we made our way (with a necessary diversion to Starbucks) to the bus.

Our first stop was Rosslyn Chapel. Featured in Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code", this small but impressive chapel is full of ornate carvings (including two beautiful pillars), beautiful stained glass windows, and a really cool nature theme throughout. The history of the chapel is also really interesting. One piece of the chapel's story is as follows: The master stone mason carved one of the pillars in the front of the church, and then left for Rome in order to gain inspiration for the second pillar. While he was gone, his apprentice had a vision from God for the second pillar, and was given permission to carve it. When the master returned, he discovered to his horror that the pillar had been already carved, and was significantly more beautiful and magnificent than the one he himself had carved. What was more, it had been carved by none other than his own pupil. Enraged, the master confronted his pupil in the church, and in a fit of rage hit his apprentice over the head with his hammer, killing him. The master was put to death for his crime, but the stone masons still felt that justice could be served. Therefore, they carved the master's face into a section of the wall exactly opposite the apprentice's pillar so that he would have to stare at it for eternity. Cheery, right? But it is a beautiful pillar :)

The next stop was Melrose Abbey, the rumored resting place of Robert the Bruce's heart. Even though it is mostly all ruins now, you can still clearly see how it would have been a really impressive abbey in its time. Today's weather could not have been better - there wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was pretty warm, at least for Scotland standards. So, we decided to have a picnic lunch in the shadow of this awesome abbey. While I was eating my lunch I would get caught up in conversation, and then look up and remember with amazement where I was. It was a very cool experience.

After lunch, our bus wound its way to Smailholm Tower, which is very near where Sir Walter Scott grew up. The tower, in fact, is referenced in one of Scott's works. The following is a excerpt from "Marmion, Canto III, Introduction".

It was a barren scene, and wild,
Where naked cliffs were rudely piled;
But ever and anon between
Lay velvet tufts of loveliest green;
And well the lonely infant knew
Recesses where the wallflower grew,
And honeysuckle loved to crawl
Up the low crag and ruined wall.
I deemed such nooks the sweetest shade
The sun in all its round surveyed;
And still I thought that shattered tower
The mightiest work of human power;

Our next stop was Dryburgh Abbey. Unfortunately by this point, most of us had been up and moving for over ten hours and were pretty exhausted, so pieces of the abbey may have been lost on us. However, we were all woken up by Scott's View, named because it was Sir Walter Scott's favorite spot in all of Scotland. Unfortunately, my camera decided to die right when we got here, so I couldn't get a picture of it for myself. Here is a picture though, taken by someone else so you can get the full effect:

This was the last stop on our trip, so we made the trip back to Stirling, and back to me happy to be laying in my bed after a long, beautiful, and fun day outside! Goodnight!

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